Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The lover within

My blogger buddy Kim of An Oft-Traveled Road sent me a wonderful poem after yesterday's post: It's by Derek Walcott, and called Love After Love.

The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

It's hard for me to imagine a poem more perfectly matched to thoughts about befriending the face in the mirror, and what I particularly love about it is the line "Give back your heart to itself, to the stranger who has loved you all your life." We were speaking of that in class yesterday, as we were walking through the last chapter of Jesus the Teacher Within; of the appeal of that conviction that God is not separate from us, but loving us from within -- and the difficulty, even if we get glimpses from time to time, of living in a way that retains full awareness of the love that flows through us from that loving stranger within.

I shot this picture in Portland, of a chrome sculpture seen through a window, because I loved all those reflective surfaces and was drawn to the blues that are culled from the sky and nearby river, and by the framing of the window panes. But looking at it now I see that I am in this picture as well, though only as a shadow tucked between the two lampposts, and that its strongest impact lies in that rather pointed beak that sits just to the right of center -- it is there that the sky and river are most perfectly reflected.

But -- speaking as a critic now -- the beauty of the piece lies in the movement and the questions it raises. Yes, there is that rather pointed admonition to look down, to sit and watch the way your heart reflects the world around it. But the lampposts draw you heavenward, the framing keeps you grounded, and that hazy central figure keeps drawing you back to question: who am I? Who is this stranger in the glass? And who is this loving stranger within? What spirit ignites that orange flame in the lamppost?

...which makes me think of the Rumi poem Bev read at the beginning and end of class:

The minute I heard my first love story
I started looking for you, not knowing
how blind that was.

Lovers don't finally meet somewhere.
They're in each other all along.

It must be true: the signs are everywhere.

The Rumi poem is from THE ESSENTIAL RUMI, translated by Coleman Barks.

"Love after Love" is from COLLECTED POEMS 1948-1984 by Derek Walcott.
Copyright © 1986 by Derek Walcott. Reprinted by permission of Farrar,
Straus and Giroux, LLC.


Megokee said...

Hello! I found your blog today, so I am thinking about the name. Contemplative photography is so intertwined with the "face in the mirror," with love, art , and spirit!

Diane Walker said...

Welcome, Meg! And thanks for that-- I'd never quite thought of it that way. So cool -- there is wisdom everywhere!

altar ego said...

The Rumi poem is dead on, something I have believed for a long time. Sort of like the song "I knew I loved you before I met you." If more of us were awake to this wisdom we might make wiser choices about mates, and the world just might be a slightly saner place. God knows.